THE first of 36 Orange-bellied parrots were released at Lake Connewarre and Western Port Bay as part of a successful five-year program to add captive-bred birds to the wild population and give them a better chance of survival.

The birds join 100 Orange-bellied parrots now part of the wild flock, previously let go from Victorian sites in the Mainland Release Trial.

Supported by the success of the trial, this autumn will see the largest flock of Orange-bellied parrots migrate to Victoria in 15 years, with more than 140 expected to fly north from their Tasmanian breeding grounds.

The Orange-bellied parrots have also benefited from a successful breeding season in the wild, combined with large-scale releases of captive-bred birds at the Tasmanian site in spring and late summer.

The species has gone from being at imminent risk of extinction, with only 50 birds left in the wild in 2017, to a 15-year high thanks to the trial and broader conservation efforts.

The trial is supported by funding from the state government’s Biodiversity On-Ground Action Icon Species Grants program, Zoos Victoria, the federal government’s National Landcare Program, and Moonlit Sanctuary.